Isaiah 40; 1 – 5, 9 – 11
Gospel Mark 1; 1 – 8
In the late Sixth Century B.C. Jerusalem was defeated by King Nebuchadnezzar II, and the prominent citizens of Jerusalem, artisans and craftsmen were deported to the city of Babylon. They and their descendants waited for approximately fifty years until the Assyrians defeated the Chaldeans and allowed the captives to return to Jerusalem. The first reading from the Prophet Isaiah takes place near the end of the captivity, and the prophet is given the instructions to give comfort and to speak tenderly to God’s people. The prophet continues with the message that the time of their captivity is coming to an end, and that the Lord will make their return to Jerusalem and easy one.
The Gospel of Mark begins by recalling the words of Isaiah in the First reading, and applying that prophesy to the presence of John the Baptist as “A voice crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.’” To the Israelites the God was going to free them from the occupations of the Romans, just as he freed them from exile in Babylon. The Israelites were waiting for the Messiah to lead them and Mark’s Gospel begins with the announcement by John the Baptist that. “One mightier than I is coming after me….he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
As we celebrate this Second Sunday of Advent we are reminded of the faithfulness of God to His people. God did not abandon the Israelites during their time of captivity in Babylon, and he was faithful in his promise to send a Messiah. These are two messages that strike me in the scriptures for this weekend. In the Israelites’ particular situation of being in exile God was actively involved in their deliverance. In the longer term promise of sending a Messiah, God went far beyond His Word as the Israelites understood it. Not only did he send a Messiah, God sent His Son as our redeemer. God is faithful to his word and to his people.
When we take a serious look at our own lives we can see this manifestation of God’s faithfulness in our past. How many times have we called out to God in some dire situation, and although the answer may not have been when and how we expected it, yet we experienced God in our lives in ways that we did not expect, and with results that far exceeded our expectations.
Why is it that we aren’t always aware of God’s presence in our lives? There are numerous reasons and theories that can be given, but I will mention two that are probably universal. Most of us lack the attentiveness and patience in our lives and that hinders our ability to see God’s Presence and action.
We are bombarded by so many things actively vying for our attention that our attentiveness to God can be affected. We can spend our scheduled time at prayer, but outside of that scheduled time we can become lax in seeing God at work in our lives. Regarding patience, we are not a people who like to wait, even for God to answer our prayers. We have a need to pray for the virtue of patience and to cultivate that as we place our various situations and needs before God.This week we are challenged to “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” With attentiveness and patience we can clear out some of the winding and hilly road that sometimes separates us from the Lord, and prepare ourselves to receive him in renewed ways.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.